Talking to my son about absent father: HELP!

Samantha - posted on 04/18/2012 ( 19 moms have responded )

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I need help lol. My son is a very talkative and bright four year old. his father has been absent since he was three weeks old. I don’t receive support and I don’t need it if it means not having to share custody. So now my son is asking questions about his father and making up a background story for him. I've read the articles about talking to your children about absent parents. I know I’m not supposed to lie, bad mouth, and make sure my son doesn’t jump to the conclusion that his father being absent is his fault.

However, his father is a bad person. While I have no intentions of telling my son that his father was bad, I’m not willing to paint him in a false positive light. So what do I say to him? And by bad I mean think American history X bad, than add some drug dealing and gang activity in there.

I plan to tell my son that his father wasn’t able to be a parent, but then he is going to ask why, what do I say then? Above everything else I dont want my son to think its his fault.

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Robin - posted on 04/18/2012

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I had the same conversations with my son when he was about 3-4 yrs old. His father was not in the picture by his choice. I told my son his father didn't know how to love people. He didn't know how to love himself. Which is a crazy thing because who wouldn't know how to love each other? I told him his father just wasn't ready to be a dad or a husband which is very sad because he is missing out on the 2 most wonderful people in the world. We hope that some day he wil learn how to be ready to share love with others. When we do find a dad, our dad is going to love us as much as we love each other, he will want to do all the things we love to do and he will be so happy and excited to be a part of our family. That is the kind of dad we want for ever and ever. He seemed content about that. When he got older I told him more. When he was 16 he asked more questions...I was much more honest. He asked if I would be mad if he wanted to see him....I told him I couldn't be mad that is his choice. I told him I would be the 1st one to help him find his dad and take him to him but I would hope he would wait until he was a little older so he could handle it emotionally. Which seemed to be fine with him. He told me he has told people his dad was dead...as far as he was concerned. He is now 22...his grandpa is the closest man to a father he has and they are very close. My son is going to graduate college in May. He is well adjusted, well mannered and well liked by others I am very proud of him.I don't think he would be the same person if his father were sprinkled in his life. I still stand by I will be the first one to make sure to help him find his father when he is ready to find him. We have a close relationship he knows more now....I still haven't called his father all the names I would like....but I feel the day he meets him, he will find out on his own.
Sidenote: Being a single mom is a VERY hard job! Life has not always been rosey but we have made it thru together! Other people say: When they talk to my son they can tell how much he loves and respects me. That is such a great thing to hear because he is so normal there are days where I am not sure of it! :)

Linda - posted on 04/30/2012

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Kids have such a way of figuring things out for themselves as they get older...you are so right not to badmouth.....that they will remember, and not as a helpful tidbit either.
A very special Therapist that helped my kids deal with their abusive father, told me that when a parent interjects 'their' opinions no matter how correct/incorrect, or just from their perspective, you take away a piece of their childhood that can't be put back.
Little ones just want to be loved.....factual explanations for an absence interprets into unlovable for children too young to sort the differences..
Never lie, but be very careful when questions are asked from children too young to understand adult choices that are interpretted into so much more than just a 'time out' to little ones.
Just saying.......

Vanessa - posted on 04/30/2012

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My son never met his biological father & never will. I told my son I was mom & dad. And for first 8 years I was mom & dad. My fiancee has ben dad for the past 2 years. It does not take DNA to make a dad. It takes love, repsonsibility & action. Our son who is now 10 never asked aout a "dad", even in the past 10 years. My philospophy is, :you can't miss something you never had".

I f I were you I would tell my son that some kids just have one parent. Simply say I know it best for you and me.

Linda - posted on 04/24/2012

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I have somewhat the same situation where as my grandchildren's (age 5 1/2 and 4) mother, is not present, Both kids remember her from sparadic visits but have had no contact with her (her choice) for almost a year, Between Kindergarten and daycare where moms are present, they ask about their Mom and reaffirm their love for her frequently., As Nanna, I am with them alot and have been since the 4 year old was 6 months old which is when my son gained full custody,.

When the kids ask about their mom, I simply say that I know they love her and that I know she loves them, but, she just can't take care of them,. And I add, that they both are so lucky to have their Daddy, Nanna and Grandpa, and sooo many people that love them and take such good care of them...

At this age, and unable to understand the choices that adults make, and, not wanting them to feel that it was a choice not to love them, but rather a responsibility choice, I focus on the love of so many others that are involved in their lives,..

The 5 year old granddaughter even told me one day that her Mommy was dead (some little friend told her that since her Mommy was never seen) I assured my granddaugher that her Mommy was indeed not dead and that if she was, someone would tell us.

I feel that as my grandchildren grow older that will be the time to explain the choices adults make and how these choices have nothing to do with rejecting them, At this age, the absence of a parent to a child, is related to love and them being wanted,...I feel...and not the lack of committment to being a parent, Sometimes I feel that I have to force myself to remember that not all minds think the same when it comes to being a loving parent,,and that is okay,.,.,.because the norm is not the norm for all.

Good Luck....

Renee - posted on 04/18/2012

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Samantha,



I feel for you. Your situation is a tricky one. Considering the age of your child, you do need to tailor the details and keep them to a minimum, however, I do believe that you need to be honest. You can say, your Father isn't bad, but he has made "bad" choices.



This can be chance for you to help him understand the difference. We are all created by a loving Father in heaven. But sometimes, humans choose to not receive that love and live a life filled with bad choices. Those choices make him someone that won't be good for our family.



But, the good news is ... we have a loving Father in heaven that truly loves you. He thinks you are an awesome little boy. He's watching over us, even though we can't see him.



I hope this advice helps you on your way.



Blessings to you,

Renee

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19 Comments

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Maryann - posted on 07/08/2012

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Aww sweety I hate to hear yu going through this; I'm heart broke for you too. Try to do more one on one things with him outside of the house or have him be around a responsible male figure in your family. There are also kiddy books that you can read to him about single parents..... Go to the book store with him or have him around more single parented kids. I know how he feels.. He'll be fine .

Samantha - posted on 07/08/2012

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It's been awhile since I posted this. The initial conversation was very simple. I told him everyone has a mom and a dad but his father is gone and he's not coming back. Unluckily for me some of his friends at our preschool filled in the blanks and told him his father was dead. So after I got that cleared up I adopted a script thats goes like "Everyone has a mother and a father, but your father is gone and he is not coming back." He seldom asks me if his fathr is dead anymore, and accepts that he is not and the script follows as ususal. But every so often i hear him playing with his toys and he has a father and a son in his play and it breaks my heart. So i think i will start telling him that aside from one donor of each sex makes a baby etc that some children only have one parent, and we will see how that goes. Thank you to everyone who replied i found something helpful and inspiring in each reply :)

Jen - posted on 05/14/2012

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Luckily for me when my kids were very young I relocated to another state to remove myself from being around my ex. So when they ask, I said "I chose to move to XX, your dad chose to stay in XX." No lies. One has had infrequent visits with hers, the other has not. As they have grown older and now have cell phones/facebook/internet, they can keep in contact with their fathers, and I don't have to. Its beautiful.

Just tell him that you chose to leave because you didn't like some of the choices his dad was making, that its not his fault, and that one day maybe he'll make some right choices.

Tammy - posted on 05/13/2012

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Hi Samantha.

The first and most important thing is to let your son know, IT IS NOT HIS FAULT. No matter what else, it is very important that they know this. My son is 13 and we still have issues. But he knows it is not his fault. He knows it his fathers choice to be in his life or not. In your case, I guess I would just explain now is not a good time for his father to be in his life. His dad needs to be away so he can deal with things in his life. That being with you and only you is the best thing for him. He's not going to undrstand right away, so it will need to be repeated. It is one of the HARDEST parts of being a single parent. Having to explain why. My son's father isnt a bad person like in your case, he just doesnt want to grow up and be a full time father. Sometime he is, but he goes months without talking to his son. Sometimes I wish if he wasnt going to be around, he would just stay that way. It would be easier than watching my kid wonder why he isnt important enough to get at least a phone call. :( I wish you the best of luck!

Kristen - posted on 05/01/2012

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I went through the same thing with my son. He would tell people that his father was dead. I just sat down with him and told him that although his father did love him, he knew that he would be much better off with me. Unfortunately, he had some medical problems(this is the nice way that I used to describe his addictions) and didn't know how to be a parent. I just explained that some people are cut out to be parents and that some people aren't and that his father loved him enought to do what was best for him and just walk away. I told him that no matter what I would always be there for him and anytime he wanted to talk I would answer any questions he had.

On a side note, as he gets older and sees people drinking etc. I have talked to him about the fact that addiction/illnesses are hereditary(sp?) and that he needs to be very careful as he gets older and be aware of the fact that he needs to drink in moderation because it's in his gene pool to have issues with alchohol. (I have tried to keep it as light as possible but still want him to be aware). I think I have done well so far because he pays really close attention when people drink(even if we go to Chili's for dinner) and will note that people act different and not in a good way if they've had too much!!!

I think there are ways to be honest without badmouthing the father. Just be as honest as you can and I'm sure you'll be fine. You definately want to open the lines of communication so that he knows he can come to you for answers about this and anything else in life that might come up along the way. After all, you're all he's got!!!!

Kristen

Rachel - posted on 04/30/2012

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Hi -
My x has made "sacrifices" according to him. He "sacrificed" seeing our daughters... priorities are way messed up IMHO. Anyway, I tell my 8 & 4 year olds that their father is a grown up and he makes his own decisons. I affirm that he loves them and it's ok for them to love him, etc. No bad mouthing, no matter how much I want to!!!
He hasn't seen them since October; before that it was April 2011. Nothing I can do about it.

My 8 year old asks questions about why we split. I tell her that I will explain when she's old enough to understand. Until then, she just has to deal that I won't explain.

As for your sperm donor, I think it's ok to say that he just is not able to be a parent; that's why you are here. It may be helpful for you to talk to a therapist about that too, before you say anything.

Good luck, I know how hard this is.

Fay - posted on 04/30/2012

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Heather - posted on 04/29/2012

3

3

0

Samantha,

I am in a very simlair situation as you are I have a five year old son who is going on six. I am
lucky because I got married and my husband has been a wonderful father figure to our son but I
know eventually he will be wondering why he is a different color unlike his siblings and I am
prepared for all of his questions I think. I know who his father is but when I gave birth to my so
it wasn't in his cards to tell his girlfriend at the time that he had a child with me. Isaiah is a very
living little boy and I wouldn't change anything of his up bringing. You will find the courage and
strength to help your little boy through this difficult time. Good luck

[deleted account]

4 year olds, don't need a lot of details. "Your dad (in my case I use father to differentiate between a daddy and a biological father) made some choices that meant he couldn't be here with us." If he asks more questions then answer them truthfully. Even if you are still hurt or mad about the situation, do not bad mouth him. A fairytale can be a good way for your son to bring him peace about not having his dad around. He will soon enough learn what kind of man his father is. You don't want to bad mouth him and then create a situation where your son wants to glorify him or make you wrong when he gets older. Try to keep it basic and neutral. Hope this helps.

Alisha - posted on 04/19/2012

735

10

39

That's tough! You don't need a lot of details for a 4 year old. Just say his dad could not be a dad because he made bad choices. Tell him that was his dads decision and is not your sons fault. That's really all you need to say at his age and make sure to acknowledge his feelings and tell him its ok to be sad and he can talk to you about it.

Linda - posted on 04/19/2012

5

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I have all always tell them the truth about everything little by little, taking in consideration other facts such as: their age, ability to listen, understand and coopping with what I am telling them. Kids are very smart, and we should treat them with respect. I have always make clear to them that what ever happen between me and their father is not for them to worry. I have told them that our choices whether they are good or bad have consecuences; and them I have use an example on something they have done recently to show them how choices leads to consecuences. For example if they have eaten too much of something and later on they felt sick because of what they aet. Then I take the opportunity to them how it works. I try to take advanteges of all the oportunitie daily life gives us to make the point. And as they grow older I try to make them understant how other things around the situation can influence in the outcomes of whatever choices they are making. One thing for sure I always do is that I tell them not to have negative feeling towards their dad because in the long run that only hurts them. I also tell them not to focuse in the problem but in the solution.

This is not easy just focuse in the best solution not in the problem. Make sure that he knows that you love him and that you will always be there. Make sure that he knows that you love him even when he has done something wrong; you just don't approve what ever he had done wrong.



I believe in God and all I can tell you is that He has help me in my journey and that He has given me the wisdom to coop with everything and make the best of everything. I owe everything to Him. Don't give up He is always there to help us; He just waiting for us to realize it.

Jennifer - posted on 04/18/2012

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answer questions based on your son's age and understanding. start with that you and his father both care for him and that daddy made choices. kind of go from there.

its very hard - my son is a lot like yours (but now 5 & 1/2) and has very little contact with his father. it is very hard not to bad mouth his father for having no problem ditching his child and responsibilities. you just take things one step at a time and ask questions about what your son really wants to know. his true question might be a lot easier then what it first sounds like.

Louise - posted on 04/18/2012

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Just tell him that daddy did not love mummy so it was better for him to go away. That way you are placing yourself as the reason and he will accept this. Eventually he is going to want to know why his parents do not live together or contact one another. Especially when he is a teenager he is going to want to know about his roots good or bad.

Jennifer - posted on 04/18/2012

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Tell him "Your dad made choices. I chose to be here with you.". As he gets older then you can give him more details. My son did the same thing. I tried to pull any positive I could. But the kid will come to understand in his own time. You don't have to be the bad guy in the middle. I know that is what I said

"Your dad made his own choices and I made the choice to be with you." Hope the best for you and your son and that you enjoy the rest of your mothering experience. You are not accountable to tell HIS (the dads) story.. you are in charge of yours only. Kids ARE smart. My son's father showed his colors by never returning phone calls on Fathers Day made to him. I had to be there for my sons broken heart and to help him through it and if I am too caught up in the pain for myself then I am not there as a parent for my child. I never had to say a word to my son about his dad.. it just shows itself. Right. Sad but true. My son prays for his dad every night and that takes a pretty big hero of a person to continue to love someone who just hurts you so bad. I am just trying to keep myself ready for all the changes my son may experience and emotions through processing it when he grows. Thats what is most important to me.

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